Death in post-classical screen storytelling

  • Thomas Britt

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The previously published works that form the basis for this submission span from 2009 to 2021. Though the seven chapters and articles represent a wide range of genres and forms of storytelling for the screen, the shared context for the works examined is post classical cinema, a designation with a debated history within film studies. These publications contribute to the field of film studies a close examination of death as a subject within screen narratives, drawing on complex issues of death, such as death and reality (whether or not death is experientially real), temporality (including the juxtaposition of finitude and infinity), affect (the balance of intellect and emotion regarding death), spatiality, and how death reveals and/or destroys the individual self. The various methods and methodologies used for the writings included in this submission involve sorting narrative themes, identifying the role of death and fatal violence within cinematic discourse, tracing the depictions of mortality in the filmographies of auteurs, and exploring the particular qualities of death depictions in television and documentary screen stories (as distinct from fictional feature-length narrative cinema).

The submission illuminates how existing screen theories and theories of death share several features, particularly in their attention to perception, causality, time, and space. The thesis argues that the emphasis on death as a subject occurs in tandem with various advances in post-classical screen storytelling, in part because modern films can mediate the viewer's experience of time and space with increasing formal complexity as they depict death scenarios, often in an unflinching manner that classical-era film content regulation and ratings would not allow. Yet those realities of post-classical cinema often highlight the limitations of human beings' ability to experience death, which is a central issue in death studies, with innovations in screen storytelling being attempts to represent the content and perception of death, which can only ever be experienced through approximation and 3 metaphor. The findings are useful for screenwriters and filmmakers interested in innovating within screen storytelling by portraying the subject of death on screen.
Date of AwardJun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorAris Mousoutzanis (Supervisor)

Cite this